In an article entitled “Looming Guyana Crisis Tests Biden Foreign Policy Priorities,” published on 22 January, 2024, on the website of US Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who is influential on issues on Latin America, the Senator expressed views on Venezuela, Guyana, the Border controversy, relations between the US and Venezuela and US and Guyana. 

Introducing Guyana as “Idaho-sized,” he said that it could very well be the next global flashpoint. Noting that most Americans would be unfamiliar with Guyana’s history and geography. Noting that the nature of today’s supply chains means any country blessed with critical natural resources, like Guyana, can become a key player in the global economy.

Describing Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro as a “narco-dictator,” the Senator accused him of threatening to seize, by force, Guyana’s resource-rich Essequibo region, which makes up nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass. He referred to Venezuela’s “sham referendum” to claim sovereignty over the area in December and activating military personnel under the pretense of an invasion. The Senator feels that Maduro’s agreement to not use force is meaningless and that as a failed dictator, he is contemplating aggression to divert attention from his domestic problems.

He pointed out that Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and should have been one of the globe’s wealthiest states—instead, it is among the poorest. Since 2014, its gross domestic product has shrunk by three quarters, and its currency is still inflating at around 360 percent. That the Venezuelan economy is now slightly improving is only a sign of what a low base it’s starting from.

Senator Rubio contrasted Guyana in which ExxonMobil and its partners in 2015 discovered the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves. Guyana then strengthened ties with American companies, which are now engaged in long-term petroleum extraction. He estimated that they have already pumped more than $1.6 billion into an economy of less than one million people. He projected that by 2040 Guyana will earn more than $150 billion on an annual basis. He believes that this good news for the people of Guyana also represents a challenge for the Biden Administration’s foreign policy.

Senator Rubio referred to President Biden’s efforts to normalize relations with the criminal Maduro narco-regime by lifting sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry, and releasing Maduro’s narco-nephews—as well as notorious money launderer Alex Saab—from prison. He complained that notwithstanding, Maduro continued to detain American citizens and host FARC and ELN narco-terrorists. The Senator is unhappy with the attempted and believes the consequences could be disastrous for the US. Already the modest improvement in relations is unravelling as the Venezuelan Supreme Court has rejected the opposition candidate for president of Venezuela, Maria Corina Machado.

Senator Rubio noted the Biden Administration’s joint military operations with Guyana and the State Department’s continuing assistance. He believes that these are productive steps, in line with hos own recommendations made after meeting with President Mohamed Irfaan Ali last September. 

Urging President Biden to communicate to the American public why the US’s relations with Guyana are in its national interest, Senator Rubio that no American wants to see a sovereign nation invaded by a hostile power having regard to the fact that Guyana is rich in some of the 21st century’s most important resources—resources that Maduro would gladly leverage against us or funnel to US’s adversaries, if given the chance. Maduro, he says, sponsors anti-American narco-terrorists, “works with totalitarian regimes like those of Cuba and Nicaragua, and has made himself a pawn of China, Russia, and Iran.”

He noted that Guyana has approximately 11 billion barrels of oil, billions of dollars’ worth of gold, and a rare supply chain of bauxite—the ore that is used to produce aluminum and gallium, two crucial mineral components for modern technology—that is not controlled by China. He suggests that if Maduro seizes Essequibo, Guyana’s resources will be less accessible to the United States “and more accessible to adversaries like Beijing.” To maintain the US’s strength throughout the21st century, it needs allies like “Guyana to be free, dictators like Maduro to be deterred, and supply chains in their entirety, from the mine to the assembly line, to be secure. Only a four-hour flight from the United States, Guyana represents a serious test for the Biden Administration, one that it cannot afford to fail.

Senator Rubio envisages Guyana through the importance of its resources to the US. The protection of Guyana, a small country facing a predatory Venezuela, indeed needs US support but the Senator sees that support in terms of American “strength” and US “interest.” Senator Rubio interest in defending Guyana, while welcome, is also based on his deep concern that Guyana’s natural resources are “not controlled by China” and “become less accessible to the US.” The bad actors who are named by Senator Rubio, such as China, Cuba, Russia and Iran are all friends of Guyana, particularly Cuba and China. Guyana’s relations with these latter two countries are old and historic. These countries are not Guyana’s adversaries. The defining challenge facing Guyana is how to strengthen it relations with the US while maintaining its traditional and valued relations. 

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